The 1973 Eldorado vs the 1998 V11 EV
Many of you are probably saying Moto What? You can tell that the company isn't managed by the CIA, since few even know it exists. Yet it is the second oldest motorcycle manufacturer to sustain continuous operation, second only to Harley Davidson.
The Eldorado was the best selling model Moto Guzzi ever produced. There are probably more Eldorados still running around the country than any other model produced by Guzzi. One version, the 850 California inspired a series that to some degree is still in production. The 1998 V11 EV is based in the California tradition. You can look at the specification section in the accompanying sidebar to compare the numbers. The interesting one is that the Eldorado is about $3000 less in comparable 1998 dollars. Is the EV worth the extra $3000?
Let's start by looking at the ergonomics. The 1973 Eldorado has been fitted with the factory floorboard kit, factory mount for the Harley Davidson windscreen, and the factory police style saddlebags. These modifications make the seating position, use of floor boards, heel and toe shifter, and wind protections similar to the EV. To the EV I've added the large factory windscreen, Givi luggage, and an aftermarket seat for reasons explained a little later. The bars on the Eldorado place your hands a little wider than on the EV, but that makes low speed maneuvering easier. The seating positions are almost identical. The heal toe shifter on both, function the same, except the ball end joints on the EV linkage make shifting smoother. The major difference is the seat itself. The Eldorado factory seat has been ridden for nearly 98,000 miles and is comfortable even today for all day rides. The stock EV seat on the other hand was designed by the Marquis de Sade. You can't go 100 miles on the stock EV seat without being in agony. However the EV gets the thumbs up for the easy to use switch gear. The CEV snuff box switches on the Eldorado (they are called that because if not properly maintained, they would go up in smoke) are difficult to use. In fact the first owner of the bike added solid copper wire extensions to the turn signal and high/low beam switches so they could be operated with your hand still on the handlebar grips. Brake and clutch lever positions are relatively the same.
These are called touring mounts by Moto Guzzi. The way I'd explain useable range for the Eldorado is that you go 200 miles then start to look for a gas station. Unfortunately for the EV, the low fuel light will come on anywhere between 120 to 175 miles depending on the air temperature. The colder the ambient air temperature, the worse the fuel mileage. Best mileage is obtained when the temperatures are in the 80°F range or above. Both bikes have about a gallon of fuel left either when you switch to reserve on the Eldorado, or the fuel light on the EV illuminates.
Braking ability. The EV wins hands down. The EV comes from the factory with the same calipers and rotors as the Ducati 916. Have you ever seen a bike that looks like a cruiser do a stoppie? The EV can do it. Unfortunately, after a few thousand miles, the front rotors warped, and I replaced them with Brembo fully floating rotors. In my opinion, fully floating discs should have come from the factory. The integrated system applies braking forces to the rear disk and left front disk of the motorcycle, with the standard split being 70% front and 30% rear. The integrated braking system on the EV has incorporated an attitude (the bike not the rider) position sensor. This sensor detects the pitch of the bike and will adjust the standard front to rear bias of the integrated system based on braking conditions. Unfortunately, for this system to function properly requires that the rear shocks not have pre-load adjustment. The hand brake lever operates the right front disc in normal fashion. Both the hand and foot brake provide excellent feedback. This severely impacts cornering clearance when carrying camping gear or a passenger. (Nearly lost it on a left hander once because the main stand arm dug in.) There is no way that the car sized (really big) drum system on the Eldorado, more than adequate by 1973 standards, can even come close to the capabilities of the modern disc brake system on the EV.
Charging systems. The Saprisa alternator with Ducati Electrica regulator/rectifier system on the EV is one of the most trouble free systems on the market today. The system makes juice from idle, but makes the maximum 350 watts at 5000 rpm. On the EV, there are no extra fuse connections on the fuse board if you want to add accessories. The Eldorado uses a Bosch generator and voltage regulator, but since it is a generator system, 1500 to 2000 RPM is needed to make juice. If you ever need to replace the voltage regulator (I'm still running the original system) you can get one at the auto parts house, just ask for one to fit the old VW Beetle. The Eldorado has several extra fuse blanks located in the headlight nacelle for adding accessory circuits.
Handling characteristics. The EV is the winner by a mile. The modern chassis, wheels, tires, and ground clearance give the EV a clear advantage. The Eldorado is surprisingly good handling for a machine 27 years old. It will handle any curve you throw at it at or slightly above the posted limits, but it just has been left behind with 25 years of chassis improvements benefiting the EV. The major flaw of the Eldorado, is that some of them can develop a disconcerting wobble at speeds over 80 MPH, and unfortunately mine is one of them. The Ambassador, which was produced before the Eldorado and has similar frame design, didn't have that problem, and neither does the EV. [Ed Note: I purchased two new Ambassadors off the showroom floor and one with less than 1000 miles on it. At least one of them wobbled bigtime at about 85-90 when I rode it solo. All of them were nearly rock solid with a lightweight passenger on the back at the same speed or even faster. I experienced the same thing with a 350cc Suzuki I rode in those days (when I worked at a Triumph/Suzuki dealership. In fact I know of more than one rider that crashed their Ambassador or Eldorado because at higher speeds they went into a serious wobble. -FW]
For ease of maintenance, I'd have to say the Eldorado is easier to maintain. There is something to be said for carburation, a single set of points, and everything out in the open where you have easy access. An interesting note, how many motorcycles have you seen with a distributor cap and rotor? The Eldorado has them. One of the nasty chores on the EV is to replace the oil filter. You have to remove the sump (18 screws) to replace the spin on filter. You don't have to do that with the Eldorado, it doesn't have an oil filter. Another tricky maintenance task is to replace the fuel filter. It is buried under the tank and air box where there isn't much room to work. At least the fuel filter and fuel pump are not inside the fuel tank which is common on some other makes.
Sheer get up and go, all you have to do is look at the horsepower numbers, the EV can just run away performance wise. The Eldorado is still quick for an old bike, but it just can't make up for over 10 less horsepower and an 18 pound flywheel (8 pounds heavier than the EV). Also the fuel injection system meters smooth power from any RPM even without a smooth hand. One thing I will tell folks about riding Guzzis with carburetors, is the slower you move your hand on the throttle, the faster it will go. Guzzi utilizes Dell'Orto carburetors with direct pull to the slide, no CV mechanism to regulate the opening of the intake track. Open too fast and the engine will bog from too much air too fast.
When you take the Eldorado for a ride, your sense of time changes. The Eldorado settles into a sedate pace, at or just slightly above the posted limit of the road you are on. The Eldorado will chew up the miles comfortably, all day, at her own pace. The combination of a well balanced engine, large flywheel, and well matched gearing generate a smooth relaxing ride. If you push her, she will remind you that she doesn't like to be ridden aggressively.
The EV on the other hand demands to be let loose. This bike just wants to go fast no matter what. She only begins to smooth out on an interstate when the tach is about 4,000 RPM (an indicated 85 MPH in top gear) and above 4,000 is even better. This machine is a wolf in sheep's clothing, it looks like a cruiser, but runs and handles more like a sport bike, the harder you push her, the better it gets. The only handling drawback is that the arm used to deploy the center stand hangs too low. I'm slowly grinding it off, but will probably re-design the stand soon, or replace it with one for an SP III.
So is the EV worth the $3,000 in comparable cost? Either bike will get you where you want to go. The EV can be made as comfortable as the Eldorado with an aftermarket seat. For me the EV is worth the admission price, but I'm keeping both.
If you want to learn more about the current flock of Moto Guzzis available, visit your local dealer or visit the importer, Moto Guzzi North America on the Internet at http://www.motoguzzi-us.com or by snail mail Moto Guzzi North America, Inc., 455 W. Depot Street, Angier, North Carolina 27501, or call (919) 639-3180, or Fax: (919) 639-0753.
What hasn't changed, and what has after 25 years?
A few of the obvious, both still say Moto Guzzi on the tank, with the old style graphic. Both are 90 degree V Twins. Even some of the parts are interchangeable. For example, the transmissions can be interchanged as well as the rear drive units. The rear drive gearing is different, but each will fit the other, and the transmission ratios are the same. If it works, don't change it just for the sake of change! Also don't forget those large metal painted fenders on the front and rear. Even the side stands are basically unchanged. The only difference after 25 years is how the spring is attached.
The changes first evident are in the styling. The Eldorado is a standard layout, while the cruiser styling of the EV, almost out cruisers the Harley Davidson. Beyond styling are the technological improvements of the EV in fuel injection, chassis rigidity, increased trail in the frame geometry, braking capability, suspension, (it's hard to get any better than Marzocchi 45mm, dual adjustable forks for compression and rebound, and two White Power adjustable [damping rate only] rear shocks), and using tubeless tires. Speaking of the tubeless tires, if you look carefully at the EV photos, you will see spokes; these rims have an extra lip on them for spoke attachment. This keeps the rim narrow unlike the BMW solution.
The EV in the name, truly stands for Evolution.
1999, V11 EV
1973, 850 Eldorado
Suggested Retail Price: $1,995 or $7325 in 1998 dollars (see http://woodrow.mpls.frb.fed.us/economy/calc/cpihome.html).
$3169 less than the EV in comparable dollars.